BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Emily Geddes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/28/2006
 

Permission to Shoot in Local Parks - and Insurance


I'm a newbie with lots of questions. Shooting portrait pictures in a local park - do I need permission from anyone? Compensate anyone? Location release? I've been taking photos there of my own children with no issues - but not charging $ either. I would rather not have any issues if I invite families to meet there for a paid session. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!


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8/1/2006 9:22:39 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Generally, for commercial purposes - i.e., work for pay, to shoot in a public park or on public land - you usually need a permit from the agency or city that operates the park. To get a shooting permit, especially in large metro areas like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc., (usually) requires that you post a bond, usually around a million bucks worth of bond or insurance that indemnifies them against loss in case someone on your shoot gets injured or worse. (Yes, it happens more than you might think.) Bonds usually run about thirty bucks a day, depending on who you use. Of course, if you're doing work professionally for any pay whatsoever, you've got insurance, right?? Of course you do. So, just talk to your insurance guy and see if he can get you the bond you might require or can recommend someone who will.
Not charging takes you out of the commercial/professional realm, but if you look as though you're doing a pro shoot and the park cops happen to spot you, you just might have some explaining tooooo dooo. ;>)
Take it light.
Mark


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8/1/2006 9:38:23 PM

 
Emily Geddes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/28/2006
  Thanks so much! I haven't even started asking for money yet - practicing on family and friends. The two parks I am thinking of are teeny tiny - do I just call the borough and ask about their photography policy? Just trying to get all my ducks in a row. I have to admit, I read "million dollars" and just about faint. Then I kept reading $30/day and started breathing again. ha ha! I've been reading and learning a lot from your replies to other questions on BP. Thanks for helping us all out.


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8/1/2006 9:53:12 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Yep. Thirty bucks buys a lot of tranquility. Things can get legally ugly if you're out on a shoot and someone trips over an equipment stand, gets themselves wrapped in the muslin reflector panel hanging on it, can't see and ends up stumbling over a cliff. We see these things from time-to-time.
BTW, membership in a professional organization like ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) can be beneficial toward getting things like location bonds and discounted, but valuable, insurance policies. These groups can get you hooked up with the right folks for getting such things and helping you run your biz more profitably. (Take a look at the publications list at ASMP.org.)
Sooooooooooooo yes, just call the city or borough and ask. Get the name of the person you talk to and write it down somewhere. Chances are, for what you describe here, they'll tell you to go ahead and enjoy your photographic outing. But as I said, just keep their name handy.
And...my pleasure Emily. You're quite welcome. ;>)
Mark


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8/2/2006 9:14:37 AM

 
Sunny Jewell
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/4/2006
  Hi, Mark

I very new here, too! About the parks....
So does this mean you only need this permit, if you take along a lot of equipment to make you look too pro? sunny.


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8/8/2006 12:07:04 PM

 
Jerry Frazier   Oh boy, is this ever a hot button for me. So, you as a pro can't take pictures, but the person next to you with a point and shoot, or even a SLR, can shoot all day long.

Here's the deal, ANY public space that you shoot on as a pro requires a permit. Most times, the cops look the other way, but times are tough and cities are looking for revenue, so guess who they have decided to pick on. Yup, us. So, ALL you have to do is say you're not a pro and you're fine. But, you also have to not look like one. So, put away your tripod, and all that gear, and just shoot without it, and you can pass as a tourist, or just someone with a nice camera.

Permits vary, and the prices are really out of this world. In my area, a beach permit can be upwards of $500 per shoot. Yes, that's right. But, the funny thing is, the fine is only $100. Somebody isn't talking to the different departments or something. Why would I ever apply for a permit.

So, my advice is always, find out FIRST what the fine or penalty is. In some parks where I shoot, the penalty is that they make you stop. Big deal. I'll take my chances. If the penalty is financial, how much? If I do 10 shoots, and get stopped on one, and the penalty is the price of one permit, or less, then I don't care. I'll take my chances getting caught.

One thing to understand. I am not in the category that people think abotu pros. I DO NOT use tripods, or lighting. I use a 5D and an 85 mm or 50 mm lens, and shoot. So, for them to stop me and ask for a permit really pisses me off, since any tourist can do that all day long with their family of 17.

OK, thanks, I feel better now.

Even if you charge, if you do not have a business, it's impossible for them to do much to you. I tell all of my clients that if we are stopped, we're just friends. So far, so good.


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8/8/2006 12:56:55 PM

 
Emily Geddes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/28/2006
  Joe,
Thanks for the advise! I'll definitely check out the penalties.

Okay, I'm going to open another BIG can of worms....

I'm curious about the part - "Even if you charge, if you do not have a business "

Can I do that? Family and friends I have them pay for any prints they want to get on their own - through Kodak or Adorama. I consider the session a gift (to me too, as I'm having fun).

I'm hesitant to invite friends of friends, or aquaintances to do the same without charging a session fee and becoming "offical in the eyes of the law". Wouldn't that be a business?

ANY advice is welcome.
Emily


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8/8/2006 2:29:14 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Wellllllllllllll, one of the things a permit often buys you is crowd / traffic control and police protection, which can be handy depending on where you're working. ;>)

But if you apply for a permit to do commercial work on municipal land, chances are one of the first questions on the application is going to be the name of your business and license # followed directly by name of bonding company and bond # indemnifying the city for any losses arising from, etc etc.

It's one thing to ask for expenses. It's another to charge "session fees" "shoot fees" or "sitting fees." because then you're operating as a business and you have to declare the income (under Section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code). Now, if you would like to hear some anecdotal horror stories about some pro photogs who 'forgot' to declare some of their income and how the IRS viewed it... well, that's a subject for another thread. ;>) [suffice it for now to sait it tweren't pretty] :<0

Lastly, Joe's got it about right. Most cops in most municipalities either look the other way or in the absence of a permit, tell you to go get one. If you get into the realm of obstructing / impeding traffic flow that could be a different story, but I doubt that's likely in your situation Emily.

Take it light.
Mark


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8/8/2006 3:43:22 PM

 
Jerry Frazier   Just be kind and considerate. Do not ask people to move out of your shot. Do not stop people from walking by. We all have the same right to the sidewalks, parks, streets, and things as anyone else. So, we need to share it. Work quickly and efficiently, and don't take too much time and don't be intrusive.

If you need to block sidewalks or streets, then get a proper permit and get help from the city for that.


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8/8/2006 4:25:46 PM

 
Jerry Frazier   Well, according to the IRS, assuming you are in the US, you can have a hobby. A hobby is something you do that might derive some profit, but not much, and it is not a significant portion of your overall income. So, if you sell baseball cards for fun, and you make $1,000 per year, but your salary is $85,000...the $1k is insignificant, and thus you can classify it as a hobby. In a photography business, this woul dbe easy because it is easy to have more expenses than income. No one really gets this until year 2 of having a business. But, the fact is that you don't have to have a business to collect money. You can just start collecting money, and as long as you declare it, you're OK. I think you can also collect money by just collecting money. I'm not sure how that works, but when I do my taxes, there's a line that says, "other income" and you just enter an amount there.

Starting a business requires nothing but just start doing it. You can get permits and tax ID's and all the other things as you go and as they are required. It cracks me up that people think there is a process, or a way to start a business. But, there isn't. You just start. Yes, it's that easy. Of course, maintaining it, and finding clients, and delivering consistently, and branding and marketing makes it tough. But, the starting is easy.


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8/8/2006 4:33:24 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Sorry Joe, but I'd be careful with that line of advice. In the eyes of the IRS, there is no such thing as a little income or "profit" whether it's from a hobby or anything else. It's like being a little bit pregnant. Sure, you can call the additional income as from a hobby, but it still has to be declared (legally anyway).

Section 61 of Title 26 U.S. Code defines income. It says, essentially, that income is anything of value from any source derived. Believe it or not, that $2,000 you found stuffed in the old piano your grandmother gave you, is income (referred to as "treasure trove".) Oh, and the box of loot you dug up while planting last seasons x-mas tree, yep. Income.

The problem is when one agency starts talking to another via computer by zip code. In California, the franchise tax board talks to the IRS system in Fresno. The franchise tax system talks to the county systems, the county systems talk to the municipal systems, especially in San Francisco. (Yikes !!)

What the IRS does provide for is that you can run a business at a loss for awhile (I think it's 3 tax years) before THEY determine it's a hobby and disallow any further deductions. But under the current scheme of the tax laws, income is income and has to be reported regardless of its amount.

Certainly you don't need a biz to collect money, (just ask my cousins Cheech, Guido and Vinnie) but operating a biz in a jurisdiction that requires registration, i.e., permits, etc., [which is essentially a way to collect additional revenue as we know] and failing to comply with the license and permit, county biz tax regulations, etc., can get someone in deep cah cah. sp??).

In California, the State Franchise Tax Board computers talk to the IRS system in Fresno. Then the State system talks to the county system and assessors offices which in turn talk to the municipalities and their systems.

How did we ever evolve to this point?? THAT's REALLY scary.

Take it light.
Mark


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8/8/2006 5:32:09 PM

 
Jerry Frazier   Well, I was addressing getting started. There's really nothing you have to do. You just start. That's exactly what I did. It wasn't taxes that made my get a sales tax ID, it was not wanting to pay sales tax on items I am reselling. It wasn't the IRS that made me get a EIN, it was the fact that I didn't want to share my SSN with others. This goes on and on. Everything I have done to establish my business was for a business reason.

I claimed I had a business before I had one, and since I claimed my income, the IRS didn't care. I didn't say that you don't have to claim your income. What I said is that you don't have to have a business to collect money, which is true. As long as you report your earnings, the IRS will be happy.


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8/8/2006 10:16:38 PM

 
Sunny Jewell
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/4/2006
  Thanks, Joe and Mark! This has been a lot of very good information. Elaboration helps my understanding. Sunny.


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8/9/2006 8:20:51 AM

 
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